Metformin – Not Just For Diabetics?

metformin diabetesMetformin, generally known as the “first-line drug” for the treatment of Type 2 diabetes, has been revealed in a recent study by Cardiff University, UK, to not only increase the life spans of diabetics but also non-diabetics.

Metformin is the most prescribed anti-diabetes drug in the world, responsible for over 48 million prescriptions per year in the United States alone. Metformin was approved by the FDA only two decades ago, however, it has been ‘prescribed’ in the form of the French lilac flower (Galega officinalis) since the Middle Ages.

In other words, over half a century ago, your ancestors were peeling off and gobbling up French lilac flower petals (i.e. “unsynthesized metformin”) to relieve their “frequent and burning urination,” a symptom of what is now known as diabetes mellitus.

The purpose of the Cardiff University School of Medicine study, led by Professor Craig Currie (who once called his U.K. countrymen “a nation of lazy porkers”), was to compare the life spans of three groups:

• Type 2 diabetics treated with metformin
• Type 2 diabetics treated with suphonylurea (another commonly prescribed anti-diabetes drug)
• Non-diabetics, i.e., “Type Zeroes”

The results of the study?

Out of 180,000 subjects, there were approximately 7,500 deaths; from those deaths, it was concluded that:

• Type 2 diabetics treated with metformin had markedly longer life spans than those treated with suphonylurea
• Type 2 diabetics treated with metformin “had a small but statistically significant improvement in survival compared to the cohort of non-diabetics”

In English, Type 2 diabetics treated with metformin were living longer (on median, by 15%) than people without diabetes.

Let me repeat that: Type 2 diabetics treated with metformin were living 15% longer than people without diabetes. Incredible.

The study’s lead author, Professor Currie, also remarked:

“Surprisingly, the findings indicate that this cheap and widely prescribed diabetic drug may have beneficial effects not only on patients with [type 2] diabetes but also for people without [diabetes], and interestingly, people with type 1 diabetes.”

In other words, metformin may extend everyone’s life span.

Case closed, right? Type 2 diabetics have their miracle drug, correct?

Not so fast. As mentioned earlier, metformin is a first-line drug. Professor Currie points out:

“This does not mean that people with type 2 diabetes get off Scott free. Their disease will progress and they will be typically switched to more aggressive treatments. People lose on average around eight years from their life expectancy after developing diabetes.”

Appropriately, Professor Currie indicates that his future research will focus on investigating how patients with metformin can be treated thereafter to ensure that their life expectancy is closer in line with the average.

For now, the message remains the same: diet and exercise are crucial to preventing and controlling diabetic conditions.